(I wrote the majority of this short piece five years ago, but never knew how to end it. This past weekend, I came up with an ending that might work, though I’m open to suggestions.)
by Craig Dunham
(The scene opens. On one side is the Attendant, a mostly-even-tempered airline employee – courteous and professional. On the other side is Mr. Jones, a business traveler who tends to blow everything out of proportion through over-analysis and over-reaction. The Attendant is looking at her computer screen, having just helped a traveler; Mr. Jones is the next person in line.)
Attendant: Next in line, please.
Mr. Jones: That’s me. (Picks up luggage and walks forward to desk.) Good morning.
Attendant: Good morning, sir. And where are you heading today?
Mr. Jones (putting luggage down): You know, that’s a great question. (Attendant looks perplexed.) I suppose that’s the question everybody is asking these days, aren’t they – and of course, they should be, I mean, it’s pretty important! – but I’m not sure I’ve figured that one out just yet. How about you? What’s your final destination?
Attendant (confused): Uh, I’m here at this desk until five. You don’t know your final destination?
Mr. Jones: I’m telling you I’m not really sure, and anyway, I’m not sure I have any choice in the matter. I mean, how in the world – in the midst of a thousand ideas and a million thoughts about what makes the world go ‘round – am I supposed to figure that out?
Attendant: Well, you might try looking at your ticket.
Mr. Jones (getting a bit more emotional as he considers the statement): As if it were that simple! Where do I get a ticket like that, one that tells me everything I need to know about my final destination, let alone how to get there and when to leave!?
Attendant (trying to help): From a travel agent? Or the Internet?
Mr. Jones: The Internet!? You seriously think the ticket for my final destination can be found on the Internet, the wasteland of all humanity, the dumping ground for all useless information, opinion, and fluff?
Attendant: Well, if you purchased it from there, yes.
Mr. Jones: Purchased it from there? At what price? What would such a ticket really be worth? And do you really think I could afford something like that on the salary I make? Maybe it’s a little different on the other side of that counter, but I’m not pulling down that kind of money, nor am I willing to throw it at the Internet for a ticket for my supposed final destination!
Attendant (becoming a little irritated): I see. Well, sir, let me try to find your ticket in our system. Can you give me your name, please?
Mr. Jones (flippantly): You think that by simply entering my name, you will somehow pull up on your computer my final destination?
Attendant (impatiently): That’s my intention, sir. Your name, please?
Mr. Jones: Jones. Ed Jones. (Attendant types as Mr. Jones builds momentum.) But I doubt seriously that by typing in the random label my parents chose to give me to distinguish me from the rest of the world, that you will be able to determine my final destination – that one place where this life ends and where whatever comes next begins – that one place called…
Attendant (finding the destination): Cleveland.
Mr. Jones: Excuse me?
Attendant: Cleveland. Your final destination is Cleveland.
Mr. Jones (embarrassed and understanding a bit): Oh. Yes, Cleveland. Cleveland is THAT final destination.
Attendant (trying to move things along): Has your baggage been with you from the time you packed it?
Mr. Jones (shaking his head): Ma’am, I haven’t known a time when I haven’t had my baggage with me.
Attendant (not looking up): Do you have any baggage you’d like to check?
Mr. Jones (pauses): Do you think it will help? To check my baggage, I mean?
Attendant (looking up): It usually does. It’s hard carrying everything around with you.
Mr. Jones: You’re telling me. (pauses) Well, now that you mention it, yes. I do have some baggage to check. (pauses for courage…and then begins, increasing in agony with each line) I was always picked last for kickball in the 3rd grade. I liked New Coke when nobody else did. On my first date, I totaled my car swatting at a fly. In high school band, I played clarinet instead of trumpet because my lips were too big. My greatest academic achievement was four years of perfect attendance. My cat never liked me and my dog’s name was “Stay.”
Attendant (interrupting): Stay?
Mr. Jones: Stay. As in “Come here, Stay.” (pause) He never came.
Attendant (staring dumbfounded): Sir?
Mr. Jones (emotionally exhausted): Yes?
Attendant (trying to get back on track): How many suitcases do you have?
Mr. Jones (looking down): Two.
Attendant: Thank you. (tagging the luggage) Please make your way to Security.
Mr. Jones (looking sad): Ma’am, I’d love to, but I’ve been insecure my whole life.
Attendant (hurriedly): Next!